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Amid France synagogue attacks, support for Jewish self-defense group on the rise

In the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, pro-Palestinian rioters broke shop windows and set fires on July 20, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

In the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, pro-Palestinian rioters broke shop windows and set fires on July 20, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

SARCELLES, France (JTA) – Shortly before their synagogue became shrouded by tear gas and smoke, 100 Jews wielding baseball bats and clubs were singing the French national anthem in front of the synagogue’s heavy metal gate.

They had gathered outside the main synagogue in this Paris suburb Sunday to defend it against a predominantly Arab mob of 200 men who had gathered nearby with sticks and stones, setting garbage cans aflame and chanting “Slaughter the Jews.”

The Jewish defenders were not singing for the rioters. Their performance of “La Marseillaise” was intended as a gesture of gratitude toward the 100 police officers clad in anti-riot armor that prevented the mob from approaching.

Unable to reach the Grand Synagogues of Sarcelles, some of the rioters smashed shop windows in this poor suburb where tens of thousands of Jews live amid many Muslims. They torched two cars and threw a firebomb at a nearby, smaller synagogue, which was only lightly damaged.

“We sang to thank them, but also to remind them and ourselves that we are equal French citizens entitled to safety,” said Eliyahu, a member of France’s Jewish Defense League, or LDJ, who agreed to be identified only by his first name.

It was the ninth synagogue attack in France since Israel launched Operation Protective Edge in Gaza two weeks ago. To Eliyahu and many other French Jews, the attacks have contributed to a growing realization that, despite the extraordinary efforts of French authorities to protect them, French Jews need to rely mostly on themselves for their defense.

“The cops are here now, but it’ll be just us and the Arabs tomorrow,” said Serge Najar, a local community leader.

In the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, pro-Palestinian rioters broke shop windows and set fires on July 20, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

In the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, pro-Palestinian rioters broke shop windows and set fires on July 20, 2014. (Cnaan Liphshiz)

French authorities have been vigorous in their condemnations of recent attacks, with President Francois Hollande vowing not to allow violence in the Middle East to spill over into the streets of France and Prime Minister Manuel Valls promising to severely punish anti-Semitic attacks.

But while they are grateful for the government’s backing, many French Jews lack confidence in its ability to protect them. Bernard Cazeneuve, the French interior minister, temporarily banned protests against Israel last week out of concern for public order, but that ban was ignored by thousands who staged unauthorized protests anyway.

“I want to have every confidence that the authorities can ensure the community’s safety, but sadly, I do not — not fully,” said Yves Victor Kamami, a member of the executive board of CRIF, the umbrella group of French Jewish communities. Kamami suggested the government hire security firms to help protect synagogues during periods of unrest.

In this climate, there appears to be growing support for LDJ, a controversial group with a …read more

Source: JTA

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Posted by on July 22, 2014. Filed under Breaking News,Jewish News,Slider,World News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.